Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, Monday Dec. 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tolga Akmen/Pool via AP

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, Monday Dec. 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tolga Akmen/Pool via AP

‘A bombshell’: Canadians stuck in U.K. face uncertainty after Canada shuts air travel

Canada is one of several countries to ban travel from the U.K. due to the new strain of the virus

Mark Sultana says Canada’s decision to halt most air travel from the United Kingdom, where a mutated strain of COVID-19 has been discovered, landed “like a bombshell.”

The 52-year-old Canadian entrepreneur, who has called London home for the better part of two decades, said the move announced late Sunday has been especially disconcerting for Canadians who had planned to visit family and friends back home over the holidays.

“We can’t go anywhere — any of us,” Sultana, an administrator of the Facebook group “Canadians in London” said in an interview Monday. “We’re landlocked on this island, and it’s lots of Canadians who are affected.”

Originally from the Greater Toronto Area, Sultana said members of the 6,800-person Facebook group have reported their flights being cancelled. He said confusion and surprise reigned in the hours after Canada’s decision.

“They were prepared to quarantine and do the things that they needed to do to get back home, but now they’re completely stuck,” Sultana said.

The federal government said late Sunday that passenger flights from the U.K. into Canada would be suspended for 72 hours in an attempt to keep out a new strain of COVID-19 discovered by British health officials.

“These additional measures will allow public health officials time to gather further evidence and help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a statement announcing the border restrictions.

Canada is one of several countries to ban travel from the U.K. due to the new strain of the virus, which British officials said appears to be 70 per cent more transmissible.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday that London and the southeast of England would be placed under stricter, “tier 4” COVID-19 restrictions due to a surge in cases and concerns over the new variant. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the strain is “out of control” in those areas.

This isn’t the first time London has been under lockdown, however, said 32-year-old Julien Gagnon, a native of Saint-Lambert, Que., who has lived in the U.K. for 10 years, including nearly five years in the British capital.

He said people have been hunkering down in London for weeks, but that the largest impact of “tier 4” restrictions will be felt in the coming days, as holiday gatherings between people from different households now are banned.

“I’m pretty sure that for the very vast majority of people, it feels exactly the same way that it must feel in Canada right now,” he said in an interview. “We can’t do anything. We need to stay inside. We can’t see friends, we can’t see family, we can’t celebrate Christmas.”

READ MORE: Canada among countries to hit Britain with travel ban over coronavirus variant

In that way, Gagnon said daily life in London seems similar to his home province of Quebec, where Premier Francois Legault this month reversed plans to allow holiday gatherings over four days. Quebec has recorded over 6,200 new COVID-19 cases over the past three days and additional restrictions, namely the closure of non-essential businesses, are coming into effect on Dec. 25.

“We were going to have a bit more freedom around Christmas than in Quebec; now it’s exactly the same thing,” said Gagnon, adding that he plans to do a Zoom call with his family in Canada.

Bobby Demers, a Toronto native who has lived in the U.K. since 1988, said many people were out shopping in London on Monday, fuelled in part by fears that fresh produce will run out as the borders close.

“I went to the local supermarket this morning … and the lineup, with cars, was outside the shopping centre itself,” he said.

The U.K. is less than two weeks away from the final stage of its exit from the European Union and the British government has not yet reached a trade deal with the 27-member bloc.

“This almost is like a precursor of what’s going to happen in two weeks when (the) lorries and the trucks and the planes are not going to be able to go back and forth very easily between England and Europe,” Demers said in an interview.

An administrator of a Facebook group called “Canadians in the U.K.,” which has 5,300 members, Demers said people are banding together and offering words of support amid the uncertainty. “The empathy that as Canadians we have for each other has really come out,” he said.

“People have this view of London as (a place where) people don’t talk to each other, people avoid eye contact, but when things get tight and in times of emergency, people here do tend to come together.”

— With files from The Associated Press.

Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusUnited Kingdom

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Co-ordinator/founder David Clarke, right, is pictured with members of Comox Valley Street Outreach during Monday’s rig dig. Scott Stanfield photo
Comox Valley group aims to stop overdose deaths, reduce stigma

As the overdose crisis worsens throughout B.C., a local advocacy group is… Continue reading

London Drugs now taking COVID-19 bookings. Screenshot, London Drugs
Courtenay London Drugs now taking COVID-19 bookings

A number of locations in Western Canada selected to give vaccine

A wildfire has started near Gold River, and B.C. Wildfire Service crews are on scene. Photo courtesy Coastal Fire Centre
Wildfire burning in remote area near Gold River

Coastal Fire Centre investigating cause, but confirms it is human-caused

Volunteers paint the famous Denman Island Graffiti Fence with messages for Earth Week. Photo by Danni Crenna
Denman Island celebrates Earth Week

The Denman Island Climate Action Network (DICAN) has kicked off Earth Week… Continue reading

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read